Location: Diego de Almagro, Atacama (Chile)
Partners: Etrion, Total and Solventus Energías Renovables
Installed capacity: 68 MWac (70 MWdc)
In the Atacama region of Chile, our SunPower affiliate has built one of the world’s largest merchant solar power plants. SunPower now operates and maintains the 68-MWac (70-MWdc)-plant, which has been producing electricity for Chile since early 2015.
Chile is working to diversify its energy mix, and the PV Salvador power plant is a key part of this effort. The photovoltaic solar power plant operates on a merchant model under which electricity is sold wholesale at the market rate (versus a fixed price set by contract) to Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC), the national power grid.
The model takes advantage of the region’s unique features, which include:
- Abundant sunshine
- Low construction costs
- Growing electricity demand
As a result, solar power in Chile is becoming as competitive as electricity generated from other sources, such as natural gas.
With 160,000 photovoltaic modules, PV Salvador supplies electricity to 70,000 homes. Etrion, Total and Solventus partnered to make this project possible. The three groups own the power plant, with interests of 70%, 20% and 10%, respectively.
Construction under difficult conditions
PV Salvador’s location created the biggest challenge during the construction phase. The power plant is located in a remote corner of the desert, far from any cities. This presented serious logistical constraints for the construction teams. Climate conditions were a further challenge. Despite the relatively mild temperatures, solar irradiation levels are extremely high. As a result, it was particularly important for us to take measures to protect our employees.